~8 min read
It’s a question we thought quite seriously about when we first started Hallow and continue to think about seriously. Should Hallow be a non-profit or a for-profit? Should it be free for everyone, or should there be a premium option?
We needed Hallow to be of the highest quality
We spoke with several of our spiritual directors, prayed about it and debated it as a team for weeks. The first thing we all agreed on was that our mission – to let God make our lives holy and to help as many others as we can to do the same – had to always come first. It had to guide every decision. Money must always be only a tool to achieve it, never a goal in itself. If we never made any money, but we were able to help people grow in their faith, we’d have succeeded.
The second thing, though, was that we had to confront a series of potential issues and pitfalls. There are really no (or at least very few) high quality religious apps. Their content is beautiful, but they just didn’t stack up to the user experience of the Netflix’s and Spotify’s of the world. And that would be fine if the only folks we were trying to reach were people who would download it anyway. But a big part of our vision is to use Hallow as a way to bring people who have fallen away (e.g., young people, the spiritual but not religious) back to the faith. And unfortunately, if people in our generation see an app that isn’t built to their standard of technical and design quality, they just won’t download it. Hallow needed to be something that was truly phenomenal. It needed to stack up to the very best apps in the world, and to do that, we needed a model that could support a team of the best technical folks around to build it. We didn’t want to just build it now and leave it to fall behind, but we wanted to continue to push ourselves to grow and improve.
We needed Hallow to be a place of peace
We also knew that we really wanted Hallow to be a place of peace and respite away from the business of life. We didn’t want anyone to have to think about money while they prayed. We didn’t want to bombard anyone with ads or requests for donations. Hallow had to be transparent about pricing and then leave users in peace to pray on their own.
How we decided on our funding model
So, after much prayer and discernment, we decided on the premium model. We would price it at $5 / mo for the annual plan (~20% discount to the standard secular meditation apps, but definitely still premium). And we would give away a free trial to test out the content without getting charged. There are three benefits to this model:
- As we’ve seen from our data, folks are way way more likely to actually build a habit of prayer if they put some skin in the game and pay for it, thus helping us achieve our mission in a deeper way.
- It keeps us from having to bombard our users with requests to donate or with advertisements for other products. We can tell them up front and transparently that it’s a paid product and then not bother them about it again.
- It holds us as a team to the standard of building a truly premium product. The fact that we’re asking people to pay for it pushes us to stay up the extra hour till 3am to make sure it’s perfect.
The issue is that most of us are often used to receiving apps for free, because large companies can afford to build them and give them away for free. But what we are building at Hallow is a lot more like a book or audio book than a gaming app. We have a small team of ~10 folks constantly working to write and create new content. And books, even those sold by non-profits and Bibles, almost always cost money so they can support their organization’s continued operations.
That being said, we realize that there are many who cannot afford to purchase the subscription, and we as a Christian organization have to prioritize those who are experiencing poverty. So we decided to give a lot of our content away for free forever. We have the intro 9 days to learn the techniques of the app, the rosary, the daily gospel, and 11+ more chapters free of cost forever. If someone is able to and wants to subscribe to unlock the rest of the content, they can choose to whenever they want, but they should be able to use the app to grow sustainably in their prayer life without paying.
On top of that, we give away one free subscription for every one that’s purchased. Currently we are giving away free subscriptions to all clergy members and have a scholarship path for other people to request free subscriptions.
Trying to keep the mission always at our center
Anyway – I know this is a lot, but I just want to be as transparent as I possibly can with the decisions we make. At the end of the day, every decision we make at Hallow is made through prayer and consultation with the Church and spiritual directors. We hold ourselves to putting our mission first in everything we do from product to pricing, hiring to firing, and strategy to governance. We structured ourselves as a public-benefit corporation in order to hold ourselves accountable to our mission while also leveraging the best of the startup world. In everything we do, our goal is simply to listen to what God is asking us to do and to do it: to let God Hallow our lives – and this is where we think He’s leading us today.